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Part 1: General Information About Elections Canada's Approaches and ProcessesElections Canada Institutional Report – Public Inquiry into Foreign Interference in Federal Electoral Processes and Democratic Institutions

1.1 Office of the Chief Electoral Officer

Independence

The Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) of Canada is an agent of Parliament who is directly responsible to that institution and independent from the government.

The CEO is appointed by resolution of the House of Commons. The current CEO, Stéphane Perrault, was appointed on June 8, 2018. He serves a 10-year term and may be removed only for cause by the Governor General on joint address of the Senate and House of Commons.

The CEO reports to Parliament on the administration of a general election, by-election or referendum and on planned spending and expenditures. The CEO also makes recommendations to Parliament on legislative amendments to the Canada Elections Act (CEA) that he considers desirable for its better administration.

The CEO appears regularly before the House committee responsible for electoral matters—namely, the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs (PROC). The CEO also appears from time to time before the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs and any other committee upon request.

The CEO communicates with the government through the designated minister responsible for the CEA, currently the Minister of Public Safety, Democratic Institutions and Intergovernmental Affairs, the Honourable Dominic LeBlanc, P.C., M.P. The CEO also has regular conversations with opposition party critics and committee members to update and consult them on Elections Canada initiatives.

The Office of the CEO is funded by and operates under two separate budget authorities. The first is an annual parliamentary appropriation that covers the salaries for permanent positions. This appropriation can be increased only with the approval of the Treasury Board.

The second budget authority is a statutory authority that draws directly from the Consolidated Revenue Fund. This authority funds all expenditures other than the salaries for permanent positions and is not subject to annual parliamentary approval. The statutory authority serves to recognize the independence of the Office of the CEO from the government. It also ensures that the Office of the CEO has access to the funds required for the conduct and delivery of electoral events, which may occur at any time.

The Office of the CEO is composed of two entities: Elections Canada and the Commissioner of Canada Elections.

Structure

The Office of the CEO normally includes some 870 employees (810 at Elections Canada and 60 at the Office of the Commissioner of Canada Elections), working in the National Capital Region. This number rises to approximately 1,600 in the lead-up to and following a general election. These numbers include seven direct reports to the CEO, with three Deputy Chief Electoral Officers. See the organizational chart in Annex 1 for more information on the internal structure of Elections Canada.

For each of the 3381 electoral districts, the CEO appoints a returning officer on the basis of merit for a renewable term of 10 years. The CEO also appoints and trains field liaison officers to assist the returning officers from a specific province or part of a province and to liaise with Elections Canada headquarters. Returning officers are responsible for administering elections within their respective electoral districts. This includes filling approximately 230,000 election officer positions for advance and ordinary polls and organizing polls in some 15,500 voting locations across the country.

Mandate

Elections Canada's mandate covers matters relating to both electoral operations and regulatory compliance.

Electoral operations

  • Administering federal electoral legislation—namely, the CEA and the Referendum Act.
  • Exercising general direction and supervision over the conduct of elections and referendums.
  • Maintaining the National Register of Electors and the Register of Future Electors.
  • Ensuring that all election officers act with fairness, impartiality and in compliance with the CEA.
  • Issuing to election officers the instructions that the CEO considers necessary for the administration of the CEA.
  • Adapting any provision of the CEA during an election period or within 30 days after if the CEO considers that an emergency, an unusual or unforeseen circumstance or an error makes an adaptation necessary, for the sole purpose of enabling electors to exercise their right to vote or enabling the counting of votes.
  • Implementing public education and information programs to inform the general public about the electoral process.
  • Educating the public about the Canadian electoral process, the right to vote and the right to run in an election.
  • Carrying out studies on voting, including studies on alternative voting means, and devising and testing new voting processes for use in a future general election or by-election, subject to the approval of House of Commons and Senate committees.
  • Providing legal, technical, financial and administrative support to the independent commissions responsible for the periodic process of readjusting federal electoral boundaries to ensure that representation conforms to the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act.

Regulatory compliance

  • Issuing written opinions, guidelines and interpretation notes (OGIs) on the application of the CEA to political entities.
  • Developing regulatory policies to explain how the CEO exercises his discretion in administering the CEA.
  • Registering political entities2—namely, political parties, electoral district associations (EDAs), leadership contestants as well as third parties3.
  • Registering the results of nomination contests and contestant information for contests held by a registered party or registered EDA.
  • Maintaining a registry of regulated fundraising events, including the names and addresses of event attendees.
  • Calculating the amount of election expenses limits for candidates, political parties and third parties (including pre-election period limits, where appropriate) as well as the expenses limit for nomination contestants.
  • Publishing the financial returns of political entities.
  • Auditing the financial returns of political entities to verify compliance.
  • Reimbursing expenses to candidates and political parties according to the formulas laid out in the CEA.
  • Paying subsidies for the audit of the financial returns of candidates, nomination contestants, leadership contestants and registered EDAs.

The Commissioner of Canada Elections

The Commissioner of Canada Elections is the independent officer, within the Office of the CEO, who is responsible for ensuring that the CEA and the Referendum Act are complied with and enforced. The Commissioner is appointed by the CEO, after consultation with the Director of Public Prosecutions, for a 10-year, non-renewable term. The current Commissioner, Caroline Simard, was appointed on August 15, 2022.

The Commissioner may launch an investigation on her own initiative. In addition, Elections Canada refers potential contraventions of the CEA to the Commissioner for consideration and possible investigation. Further information, including the key guiding principles of the relationship between the CEO and the Commissioner, can be found on the Elections Canada website: https://www.elections.ca/content.aspx?section=abo&dir=cce&document=princip&lang=e

Although the Commissioner is part of the Office of the CEO, the CEA expressly states that, in the performance of her compliance and enforcement mandate, the Commissioner must carry out her work independently from Elections Canada and the CEO. The Commissioner is a separate deputy head for human resources purposes and manages her own relationships with security agencies independently.

The Office of the Chief Electoral Officer

Elections Canada

Elections Canada logo

  • Conducts federal elections and referendums
  • Administers the Canada Elections Act
  • Administers the political financing regime of the Canada Elections Act
The Office of the Commissioner of Canada Elections

Commissioner of Canada Elections logo

  • Ensures compliance with, and enforcement of, the Canada Elections Act
  • Carries out independent reviews and investigations into potential contraventions of the Canada Elections Act

1.2 Federal elections

Electoral cycle

At the time of the dissolution of Parliament, the CEO is directed by the Governor General to issue the writs of election. Since May 2007, the CEA provides for a general election to be held on a fixed date: the third Monday of October in the fourth calendar year following the previous general election. As the last general election took place on September 20, 2021, the next fixed election date is October 20, 2025. That said, the CEA does not prevent a general election from being called on another date.

The election or campaign period must last at least 37 days and no more than 51 days, and election day must fall on a Monday (with certain limited exceptions). Since 2019, in the case of a fixed-date election, a "pre-election period" also applies, starting on June 30 before the fixed election date; during this time, political entities are subject to certain spending limits under the CEA.

In every electoral district, a returning officer appointed by the CEO is responsible for the local administration of the election once the writ for that electoral district is issued. The election is administered by returning officers pursuant to the requirements of the CEA and the instructions of the CEO.

Elections Canada provides returning officers with policies, procedures, operational data and technology. Before the writs are issued, returning officers begin work to identify polling locations, and they hire and train key staff. Once the writs are issued, returning officers can begin to lease polling places. For the 43rd GE, there were 15,477 polling places for election day and 3,802 for advance polling days. These numbers were slightly reduced for the 44th GE due to the pandemic. The vast majority of election workers are hired – approximately 230,000 are required in total – between the drop of the writ and polling day.

To ensure that Canadians can exercise their democratic right to vote, Elections Canada conducts a Voter Information Campaign before and during federal elections to provide Canadians with all the information they need on where, when and the ways to register and vote.

The national campaign, delivered through a series of products that have a consistent look and feel and messages, primarily targets the general population and groups who face higher-than-average barriers to participating in elections: new voters (youth and new Canadian citizens), Indigenous electors and electors with disabilities.

Electors have a number of choices for casting their ballots: on election day, at an advance poll, at any local Elections Canada office (usually the office of the returning officer) and by mail. Advance polls are held on the 10th, 9th, 8th and 7th days before election day. Voting at a local Elections Canada office is available until the 6th day before election day.

Following the close of polls, the ballots are counted manually in the polling stations by an election officer assigned to the polling station and in the presence of another election officer. This process is observed by the candidates or their representatives or, if none are present, at least two electors. On election night, preliminary results are published on the Elections Canada website and shared with a media consortium for live broadcast.

A federal general election is a massive operation whose success rests on the timely mobilization and deployment of human, material and technological resources in diverse environments across Canada.

The process begins with planning well before the general election—in fact, at the conclusion of the previous election—and lasts long after election day. The election cycle lasts much longer than 37 or 51 days. Below is a visual representation of the election cycle, showing the pre-election, election and post-election periods and their significant events as well as planning and some key between-election initiatives.

Infographic illustrating the three stages of the electoral cycle. Described under this graphic.

Image description

The infographic has three arrows pointing toward each other in the shape of a circle. The first arrow to the left of the circle is orange-coloured and has text that reads Legislated pre-election period. It points to a purple-coloured arrow that has text that reads Election period. Above the purple arrow are two white dots. The first white dot near the end of the arrow says, Writs are issued. The second white dot near the pointed end of the arrow reads Election day and preliminary results. The purple arrow then points to a green-coloured arrow that has text that reads ‘Post-election activities. The green arrow has five white dots above it. The first white dot near the end of the arrow reads Official results, the second white dot reads CEO Report: Statutory, the third white dot reads Financial Reports, the fourth white dot reads CEO Report: Retrospective and the fifth white dot reads CEO Report: Recommendations. The arrows represent the three main arcs of the electoral cycle and the steps for each stage.

In the middle of the circle formed by the three arrows is a grey-coloured arrow that points toward itself in the shape of a circle. At the top of this circle is text that reads Planning. At the bottom of this circle is text that reads Between elections. Between elections, planning for the next election is a continuous process.

Post-election activities

Validation of the results

The validation of the results is conducted by the returning officer, generally in the week following election day. The returning officer verifies the tabulation of the votes for each candidate and the totals recorded on the Statement of the Vote for each polling station. Canada's single member plurality electoral system, also known as "first-past-the-post," provides that the candidate who gets more votes than any other candidate is declared the winner. Depending upon the number of candidates, the winning candidate may or may not need a majority of votes to win. During a federal election, one candidate is elected as the Member of Parliament in each electoral district.

Judicial recounts

A judicial recount is a new tabulation of the votes cast in an electoral district, presided over by a judge of a superior court of the province or territory. A judicial recount must take place if the leading candidates in an electoral district receive the same number of votes after the validation of the results or if they are separated by less than one one-thousandth of the total votes cast. It can also be requested by any elector if there is evidence of an error in the original count. Judicial recounts deal solely with the counting of votes.

Contested elections

Concerns respecting the regularity of an election—other than matters that are handled through judicial recounts—are addressed through the contested election process. This includes concerns about fraud or irregularities in the electoral process. After a person is declared elected, any elector who was eligible to vote in an electoral district, or any candidate in that district, may bring an application for a contested election before a judge. In practice, legal contestations are quite rare.

In a contested election proceeding, a judge is required to determine whether the person who won the election was eligible to be a candidate or whether there were any other irregularities, fraud or corrupt or illegal practices that affected the result of the election. The CEO, the Attorney General, the respective returning officer, the candidates in the election and the person bringing the application are all parties to a contested election proceeding. At the end of the court proceeding, the judge either dismisses the application or invalidates the result of the election. An appeal must be filed within eight days and can be appealed directly to the Supreme Court of Canada. This appeal must be heard "without delay."

Independent audit

In 2014, a statutory requirement was introduced for a mandatory independent audit to be carried out for each general election and by-election to report on whether election officers had properly exercised their duties under the CEA. The audits conducted for the 43rd and 44th GEs (document IDs ELC0000049 and ELC0000050) are available on the Elections Canada website: https://www.elections.ca/content.aspx?section=res&dir=rep/off&document=index&lang=e#44GE.

Election reports

Following a general election, Elections Canada produces a series of three post-election reports. The first report (document IDs ELC000060 and ELC000061) provides a factual description of how the election was administered and identifies issues requiring further analysis. This report is required by the CEA and must be presented to the Speaker of the House of Commons within 90 days after the date specified for the return of the writs in the election proclamation.

The second report evaluates Elections Canada's success in delivering the election, measured against specific performance indicators, and identifies areas for improvement. The assessment is based on information and data collected through post-election analyses, official reports and audits, feedback from key stakeholder groups and the results of research and surveys on the experience of electors, candidates and election officers. This "retrospective" report (document IDs ELC0000043 and ELC0000048) is published on the Elections Canada website.

The third report, also required by the CEA, provides a list of recommended amendments to the CEA that the CEO considers desirable for the better administration of the Act. This report is presented to the Speaker of the House of Commons. The most recent report contains recommendations flowing from both the 43rd and the 44th GEs (document ID ELC0000054).

All these reports, along with a number of complementary reports, which include information on costing, official voting results, turnout and registration (document IDs ELC0000045 and ELC0000046, ELC0000057), and research (document IDs ELC0000051, ELC0000052 and ELC0000053), can be found on the Elections Canada website: https://www.elections.ca/content.aspx?section=res&dir=rep/off&document=index&lang=e.

Compliance and enforcement

Ensuring compliance with and enforcement of the CEA is a process that continues well beyond the conclusion of an election from the point of view of most Canadians, who will have voted during the election period and learned the election results at its conclusion.

Candidates are required to file their financial returns with supporting documentation four months after polling day or later if they are granted an extension by the CEO and/or the courts. Elections Canada's Political Financing branch conducts compliance audits of candidates' financial returns to ensure that they meet the requirements of the CEA, including with respect to contribution and spending limits. Compliance activities also include database-wide (horizontal) analysis of financial information to identify potential non-compliance with the CEA. Elections Canada aims to complete the compliance audit of selected candidate campaign returns within 12 months of the statutory filing date.

Third parties are also required to file their financial returns four months after polling day, and political parties within eight months after polling day, or later if they are granted an extension. Third parties can be required to provide supporting documentation, whereas parties are not. Similar auditing activities are undertaken for these entities as those described above with respect to candidates.

Other events-based political entities (nomination and leadership contestants) may also be obligated to file financial returns with supporting documentation. The deadline to file is triggered by the last day of the contest.

Finally, political parties and EDAs are required to file financial returns once a year. The deadlines are June 30 for parties and May 31 for EDAs, or later if the CEO or a court grants them additional time. There is no requirement for these entities to submit supporting documentation.

Outside a general election, compliance audit activities are conducted for political entities' financial returns (nomination and leadership contestants, political parties, and EDAs) to ensure that they meet the requirements of the CEA, including with respect to contribution and spending limits, or both depending on the entity. This includes the horizontal analysis of financial information to identify potential non-compliance as described above.

Following an election, Elections Canada also undertakes a review of the electoral materials from the election, including checking for indications of potential voting irregularities (including double votes or voting by someone who is not qualified, such as someone who is not a Canadian citizen, has not yet turned 18 or is deceased). This review includes examining relevant documents and data collected during the election and, when appropriate, data collected from other organizations that Elections Canada works with, such as Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, to detect anomalies in the data.

If potential anomalies are found, Elections Canada searches for the associated original electoral materials to review them for potential voting irregularities.

Any instances of potential non-compliance with the CEA, revealed through Elections Canada's audit or election review processes, are referred to the Commissioner of Canada Elections for her attention. When formal compliance or enforcement action is taken in cases of wrongdoing under the CEA, the Office of the Commissioner of Canada Elections publishes the information on its website.

1.3 Elections Canada's approach to electoral integrity and election fairness

Free and fair elections

The concept of "free and fair" elections is frequently used and understood to have meaning in the international context. An internationally accepted definition of a free and fair election is one that is "held at regular intervals on the basis of universal, equal, and secret suffrage"45 and guarantees the free expression of the will of the electors.6

The components of free and fair elections are generally understood to extend well beyond the mandate of an electoral management body such as Elections Canada; they include such things as the existence of freedom of expression and information, freedom of association and assembly, the establishment of impartial electoral boundaries, non-intervention by the state in the electoral process and the absence of any undue intimidation or pressure on voters. Free and fair elections also feature many components that are within the control of an election administrator: for example, a legible ballot, an opportunity for all qualified electors to register and vote, timely and transparent publication of election results and swift attention to election complaints.

The following table, found in Michael Krennerich's 2021 book, Free and Fair Elections?, identifies the components of free and fair elections.

Before election day - Free and fair elections
Free Fair
  • Freedom of information and expression
  • Freedom of assembly
  • Freedom of association
  • Freedom of movement
  • Universal right to vote and stand for election
  • General registration of persons entitled to vote
  • Free registration of parties and candidates
  • No preferential treatment or discrimination of electoral opponents in the electoral law
  • Independent, transparent, and neutral election administration
  • Impartial constituency boundaries
  • Impartial election information
  • Impartial registration of voters
  • Impartial registration of parties and candidates
  • Neutrality of public authorities towards candidates and parties
  • Equal access to public media for candidates and parties
  • Equal access for voters to political and election-related information
  • No abuse of state resources for election campaign purposes
  • Impartial and transparent party and campaign financing
On election day - Free and fair elections
Free Fair
  • Possibility for all eligible voters to actually participate in the elections
  • Secret ballot
  • No undue influence on or intimidation of voters
  • Peaceful election climate
  • Possibility to observe the elections
  • Clear and neutral design of the ballot papers
  • Neutral assistance of voters if necessary Correct and transparent determination, aggregation, documentation, and publication of the election results
  • Secure transport of voting material (ballot papers, ballot boxes etc.)
After election day - Free and fair elections
Free Fair
  • Legal and actual possibilities for complaints regarding electoral irregularities, manipulation and fraud
  • Impartial and rapid investigation of election complaints
  • Complete and detailed publication of the official election results
  • Investigation and sanctioning of electoral law infringements

Source: Michael Krennerich, Free and Fair Elections? Standards, Curiosities, Manipulations, 2021.

While elections in mature democracies are generally considered free and fair, most elections fall somewhere along a spectrum when evaluated against internationally accepted criteria such as the ones outlined above. Canadian elections have been held to meet the standard of free and fair, as reflected in Canada's status of "free" on Freedom House's Freedom in the World index,7 and Canada is rated very high8 on the global Perceptions of Electoral Integrity Index.9 Moreover, the Election Expert Team assembled by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) to observe the 2021 Canadian federal election indicated that the election administration, which enjoys a high level of independence, organized the election impartially and transparently and that interlocutors expressed a high degree of trust in the integrity of Elections Canada.11

The financial audit of electoral participants (candidates, political parties and third parties) and the investigation and sanction of potential offenders under the CEA are components of free and fair elections in Canada. So is the possibility to ask for a judicial recount and/or bring an application for a contested election in the case of alleged fraud or other irregularities that may have affected an election's outcome. This reflects the fact that while all elections involve a range of non-compliant behaviour and irregularities, free and fair elections require mechanisms to detect and address these instances.

Elections Canada's Electoral Integrity Framework

In the Canadian context, federal elections are administered by Elections Canada according to the requirements of the CEA, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and other applicable legislation.

While the agency may not be responsible for all elements required for free and fair elections, it is responsible for a trustworthy administration of the electoral process. As part of its efforts to do so, Elections Canada has developed an Electoral Integrity Framework. The Framework defines the electoral integrity principles against which Elections Canada's programs and services can be measured. It also helps guide decision making to support the consistent and rigorous application of the CEA provisions and achieve the agency's strategic vision, which is an electoral democracy that serves all Canadians, and that Canadians can trust.

The Electoral Integrity Framework is composed of six principles, which are consistent with the CEA and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and which are enshrined in our electoral democracy and social fabric. They are described below.

  • Accessibility: An accessible electoral process is inclusive and meets the needs of Canadians so that they can exercise their democratic rights to vote and be a candidate, equitably and without undue barriers or interference.
  • Fairness: Fair electoral administration means that regulated political entities are — and are perceived to be — treated equitably and impartially and can compete on a level playing field.
  • Independence: Independence means that the electoral process is administered without undue influence from the government or partisan entities and interests. While Parliament sets electoral legislation, Elections Canada remains functionally independent from the government, due in part to its statutory authority to draw funds required to conduct federal elections and referendums.
  • Reliability: A reliable electoral administration is one where the administrative and regulatory functions are carried out predictably and consistently, election officials and staff act professionally and comply with the law, and elections are delivered according to sound management principles, all so that Canadians can trust elections and election results.
  • Security: A secure electoral process is designed and administered to protect it against persons or entities who would attempt to interfere with its processes, people, assets or data. A secure electoral process requires safeguards to prevent, detect, mitigate and penalize election offences and other interference.
  • Transparency: A transparent electoral process is administered in a manner such that it is observable, features oversight and is described in detail publicly.

See Annex 2 for examples of how these principles operate in Canada's electoral process.

Electoral integrity, like free and fair elections, is a systemic concept. In any election, various elements contribute to enhancing or reducing electoral integrity. For instance, measures to allow electors who have been evacuated from their community because of floods or wildfires to vote contribute to electoral integrity by ensuring inclusiveness. Measures to check for possible double votes or to encourage observations of the count also support the integrity of the process. Conversely, the failure of poll workers to apply voting procedures consistently, misleading information about the voting process or violations of spending limits by candidates or parties diminish electoral integrity. The overall integrity of an election is the result of a combination of factors, behaviours and events, and it is seldom possible to link or demonstrate the impact of one of these factors on a particular electoral outcome. They are nevertheless fundamental to the trust (or mistrust) of electors in the electoral process.

1.4 Threats to Canadian elections

Threats to Canadian elections come in many different forms and target different stakeholders, including Elections Canada and election workers as well as electors, political entities and other organizations. These threats come in the form of cyberattacks, disinformation and influence campaigns, including the inappropriate use of money, and threats against physical security. In all instances, security and enforcement agencies and partners outside the Office of the CEO may have a role to play.

Even in cases where an election is considered free and fair, the principles of the Electoral Integrity Framework can be affected by such threats. Some examples of threats are presented in the visual below.

Infographic depicting the level of involvement security agencies have at different levels of government and democracy, when responding to specific types of threats to electoral security. Described under this graphic. Go to full sized version

Image description

The infographic is separated into three main columns, with text above the first column that reads Cyber attacks, text above the second column that reads Disinformation/influence campaigns and text above the third column that reads Physical security. In the middle of these columns is a rectangular box that reads Security and enforcement agencies and partners (all). These columns are examples of threats to electoral security that security agencies might respond to.

To the left of the three columns and above the Security and enforcement agencies and partners (all) box is a teal rectangular box that runs behind the three columns with text that reads Electors, political entities and other organizations. In the Cyber attacks column to the right of this box, there is text that reads Against parties, campaigns, candidates, media, digital platforms. To the right of this column, in the Disinformation/influence campaigns column, there is text that reads To shape political debate and/or voter opinion; Violations of federal legislation other than the Canada Elections Act. To the right of this column in the Physical security column, there is text that reads, Against candidates. In the three columns are examples of threats to the electoral process at the level of electors, political entities and other organizations, where security agencies would respond.

To the left of the three columns and below the Security and enforcement agencies and partners (all) box is a rectangular box that runs behind the three columns. The box is maroon and reads Elections Canada. In the Cyber attacks column next to this box, there is text that reads Against electoral IT and system infrastructure. To the right of this column, in the Disinformation/influence campaigns column, there is text that reads On the electoral process (when, where and ways to register and vote); Violations of the Canada Elections Act, including political financing rules. To the right of this column, in the Physical security column, there is text that reads Against election workers and election physical infrastructure and locations. In the three columns are examples of threats that undermine the electoral process and which security agencies would respond to at the level of Elections Canada.

Footnote 14

Examples of how these threats can affect the Electoral Integrity Framework include the following:

  • Cyber attacks against Elections Canada or against political entities may affect the security of elector data. Such attacks against Elections Canada, political entities, the media or digital platforms may also cause Canadians to question the reliability of the information they receive throughout the election period or the election results.
  • Disinformation or influence campaigns against Elections Canada or candidates may also create doubt for Canadians about the reliability of the information they receive throughout the election period or the election results. They may also affect Canadians' access to voting and being a candidate if electors receive the wrong information about how to do so. Inaccurate information about a party or candidate or about dates or hours to vote may create access barriers for electors and candidates or call into question fairness for political entities.
  • While physical threats obviously affect the security of everyone involved in the electoral process, they may also create access barriers for electors and candidates to exercising their rights. Threats against election workers can also affect reliability if their ability to perform administrative and regulatory functions predictably and consistently are compromised.

It is important to note that some activities, such as disinformation campaigns or illicit funding, may undermine the integrity of an election even though it may be impossible to demonstrate any impact on the election results (unlike, for example, the destruction of a ballot box). The absence of a demonstrable impact on results does not make these activities benign as they may undermine trust in the electoral process.

It is equally important to note that not all threats to elections necessarily involve illegal activities. Influence campaigns by foreign-state actors can be considered election interference even when they consist of lawful activities. While lawful, such actions can undermine electoral integrity and diminish trust in the electoral process. This is an inherent challenge of living in a free and open society.

It is essential for all participants in the electoral process, including Elections Canada, political parties, candidates and electors, to understand what kind of threats they are facing and how they can mitigate or eliminate them—including by practising digital literacy and continuing to build their resiliency against inaccurate information and illegitimate attempts to influence them.

1.5 Disinformation/misinformation threat: Elections Canada's approach to informing Canadians about the electoral process and strategies for addressing inaccurate information

Elections Canada has a mandate to ensure that Canadians have access to accurate information about the electoral process. The agency's goal is to be the authoritative source of accurate information about federal elections by reaching Canadians where they are, through proactive and responsive communications, using the programs and activities outlined below.

Outreach and voter information

During elections, deliver its comprehensive Voter information Campaign to position Elections Canada as the authoritative source of information about when, where and the ways to register and vote.

Maintain and update the repository of Elections Canada communication products on its website.

Work with stakeholders to spread the word and provide correct voter information.

Pre-empting, detection and response

Pre-empt and "pre-bunk."

Detect inaccurate narratives and assess potential impact.

Respond with accurate information using Elections Canada's communication channels, reaching out to the source(s) and escalating to digital platforms and/or security agencies.

Maintain and update Elections Canada's ElectoFacts as a tool for electors to easily check whether the information they have seen online about the electoral process is accurate.

Civic education

Work with educators and civil society groups to offer educational programming to build the knowledge, understanding, interest and skills required for future voters and voters to participate in the electoral process.

Promote fact-checking services and encourage vigilance.

The Voter Information Campaign is conducted by Elections Canada before and during federal elections to provide Canadians with all the information they need on where, when and the ways to register and vote. The campaign drives electors to the Election Website for a specific election, where they can find detailed information. This includes the Official Election Information section, which is an online repository that features all advertisements and communication products produced by Elections Canada, with the exception of social media posts. Using this repository, an elector who sees a flyer, bus ad or any other kind of communication about the election can confirm its authenticity. Electors are also invited to report any material pretending to be from Elections Canada that is not in the repository.

The Voter Information Campaign, delivered through a series of products that have a consistent look and feel and messages, primarily targets the general population and groups who face barriers to participating in elections: new voters (youth and new Canadian citizens), Indigenous electors and electors with disabilities.

The voter information card (VIC) also plays a crucial role in informing electors about the electoral process. During an election, a personalized VIC is mailed to each registered elector, telling them when and where to vote, the accessibility of their advance and election day polling places and how to contact the nearest local Elections Canada office.

After sending out the VICs, Elections Canada distributes the Guide to the federal election to every household in Canada. This brochure provides information about voter eligibility, registration, the ways to vote, identification requirements, the accessibility of polling places and the voting assistance tools and services available on election day. It also prompts electors to contact Elections Canada if they have not received a VIC. For the 44th GE, the agency distributed 15,806,012 bilingual brochures across Canada and an additional 10,159 trilingual brochures in Nunavut. Elections Canada also published a version of the guide in 49 languages, including 16 Indigenous languages, on its website.

Since 2004, community relations officers (CROs) have been recruited during each general election. CROs work with local leaders to improve access to registration and voting for specific groups of electors, particularly youth, Indigenous electors, seniors living in long-term care facilities, electors from ethnocultural communities, electors who are homeless and official-language minority communities. CROs provide electors with information about where, when and the ways to vote and inform them about the tools and services available to them. By ensuring that CROs and national and local stakeholders are well equipped with information about Canada's electoral process, Elections Canada extends its communications to hard-to-reach and specialized target audiences, who are often less aware of the electoral process.

Environmental monitoring

As part of its mandate to provide accurate information about the federal electoral process, and as an extension of its traditional media monitoring, Elections Canada monitors publicly available social media and digital content for information about the federal electoral process.

The agency monitors publicly available content for:

  • Inaccurate/misleading information about when, where and the ways to register or vote
  • Inaccurate/misleading information about Elections Canada's mandate or operations
  • Reports of incidents or threats that could impact Elections Canada's operations
  • Impersonation of Elections Canada
  • Posts expressing Canadian electors' sentiment toward the administration of an election: confusion or concerns about voting experiences

The agency uses digital-platform monitoring tools and keyword searches to capture relevant content, then collates it for later reporting including internal post-mortem reports following the 43rd and 44th GEs12 and internal quarterly reports to identify trends in the environment. It does this in a number of languages other than Canada's two official languages so that it can detect as much information about the electoral process as possible. The agency does not monitor specific accounts, individuals or organizations. It also does not look into the source of the information observed online, including whether it is domestic or foreign.

Elections Canada uses its understanding of the information environment to develop and update its communication products (including its website and social media accounts). It also uses it to react quickly to inaccurate narratives about its mandate through its various communications channels.

Elections Canada shares with its security partners—including the Privy Council Office (PCO), Public Safety Canada, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), the Communications Security Establishment (CSE), Global Affairs Canada, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and the Commissioner of Canada Elections—its high-level analyses of the information observed in the environment, which may include information based on social media monitoring. Based on her mandate and expertise, the Commissioner may take further action if she suspects a contravention of the CEA.

Elections Canada's role is to ensure that electors have correct information about the electoral process. Elections Canada does not have the ability or mandate to distinguish between foreign and domestic content. Its focus is exclusively on matters related to the voting process and not on partisan discourse. Further information about the work of the social media monitoring team and its structure during the 43rd and 44th GEs can be found in the document titled "Social Media Monitoring Report for the 44th General Election" (document ID ELC0000085).

ElectoFacts

In an effort to counter misinformation and disinformation about our electoral process, Elections Canada introduced ElectoFacts in January 2024. This new resource allows Canadian electors to verify whether information they come across about Canada's federal electoral process is accurate. To provide this resource, Elections Canada flags incorrect information and narratives, and responds by providing accurate information and sources.

Interactions with digital platforms

Elections Canada engages with digital platforms that have a significant Canadian presence as well as those that have reached out to the agency.

Elections Canada has escalation protocols in place with major digital platforms (Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, Snapchat, Reddit and LinkedIn) to:13

  • If required, notify them when inaccurate narratives about the electoral process circulate on their platforms (platforms can choose to act or not based on their Terms of Use). An important distinction here is that Elections Canada focuses on narratives about the electoral process (e.g.: elector qualifications or polling places) and not narratives about electoral issues (e.g.: party or candidate stances on issues).
  • Request that information be removed if it jeopardizes electors' ability to vote (e.g. publications claiming that an election has been moved).

Elections Canada also works with platforms to develop election-related initiatives (e.g. the Facebook Registration prompt, which reminds users to update their registration information) and to ensure that accurate information is available directly on their platforms (e.g. during the 44th GE, the TikTok Voter Information Centre provided users with essential information about the electoral process directly on its platform. This information was provided by Elections Canada and was the same information that was found on the Elections Canada website).

Footnotes

 1 Based on the current Representation Order. However, as a result of the recent electoral boundaries redistribution process, a new electoral map comprising 343 seats will be in place for a general election called after April 22, 2024.

 2 There are six political entities regulated by the CEA: political parties, electoral district associations, nomination contestants, candidates, leadership contestants and third parties. All but nomination contestants and candidates are required to register. Candidates go through a nomination process.

 3 A third party is generally a person or group that wants to participate in or influence elections. They do not seek to be elected themselves but may support certain political parties or candidates.

 4 Inter-Parliamentary Union, Declaration on Criteria for Free and Fair Elections, 1994.

 5 United Nations, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948.

 6 Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966; Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe, Document of the Copenhagen Meeting of the Conference on the Human Dimension of the Conference on Security and Co-Operation in Europe, 1990; Organization of American States, Inter-American Democratic Charter, 2001; European Commission for Democracy Through Law (Venice Commission), Code of Good Practice in Electoral Matters, 2002.

 7 Freedom House, Freedom in the World, 2024. (See page 22.)

 8 Based on a survey that collects the views of election experts, the Perceptions of Electoral Integrity (PEI) dataset measures compliance with international electoral integrity standards and provides an overall score for each election, ranging from 0 to 100, as well as comparative rankings of countries based on these scores. Canada's ranking of 83 lands in the very high category, which included scores of 60+.

 9 Garnett, Holly Ann, Toby S. James, Madison MacGregor, and Sofia Caal-Lam, The Electoral Integrity Project, Year in Elections Global Report, 2023.

 10 OSCE, ODIHR Election Expert Team Final Report, 2022.

 11 OSCE, ODIHR Needs Assessment Mission Report, 2021.

 12 Document IDs include: ELC0000065, ELC0000066, ELC0000067, ELC0000068, ELC0000069, ELC0000070, ELC0000071, ELC0000072, ELC0000073, ELC0000074, ELC0000075, ELC0000076, ELC0000077, ELC0000078, ELC0000079, ELC0000080, ELC0000081, ELC0000082, ELC0000083, ELC0000084, ELC0000085, ELC0000086, ELC0000087, ELC0000088, ELC0000089, ELC0000090, ELC0000091, ELC0000092, ELC0000093, ELC0000094, ELC0000095, ELC0000096, ELC0000097

 13 It should be noted that when Elections Canada escalates issues, platforms follow their own protocols and do not report back to Elections Canada.

 14 While information can be inaccurate, it is not always unlawful. This is an inherent challenge in a free and open society.